Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Movie Review

Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton photo
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Starring Steve Carell as Burt Wonderstone, Steve Buscemi as his best friend and partner Anton Marvelton and featuring Jim Carrey as Steve Gray aka BrainRapist, this may be the most star-studded magic related movie released since Tony Curtis played Houdini.  It's been on the radar of magicians worldwide for the past year.  The magic community has been waiting with bated breath to find out whether it's going to be a slam or a slam dunk for magic and the audience's perception of the modern-day Houdini.  Curious also, as to what secrets the movie may hold, or let loose.  With it's release, all has been revealed!

The movie begins with a young Burt, bullied on his way home from school (circa 1983).  Alan Arkin catches his attention as Rance Holloway, a Blackstone Jr-esque character who pitches magic kits on TV.  When Burt gets the Rance Holloway Magic Kit as a gift, he's officially been bitten by the magic bug.  He teams up with fellow outcast Anton who becomes his best friend and magic partner.  Cut to Las Vegas, 15 or so years in the future and they're headlining as Burt and Anton, A Magical Friendship.

We catch up with them just as their act beginning to lose favor with the audience, due to a new kid on the block, Steve Gray aka Brain Rapist.  Steve Gray is basically Criss Angel doing David Blaine style stunts with an insane twist.

When Burt and Anton try to update their own act by incorporating an extreme stunt, everything goes wrong and in the ensuing chaos they break up the act.  And their friendship.  Burt is fired from the casino and reduced to performing at children's parties and becomes the house magician at a senior center.  Lo and behold... who happens to be a resident at the senior center?  Rance freaking Holloway!!  You can pretty much figure out what happens from here.  I'm not going to give away all the details.

The movie was funny pretty much all the way through.  Steve Carell is always funny but here he proves once again he has absolutely no range.  His character was clueless arrogant Michael from The Office.  There was even a sequence after he got fired and wanted to stay at his former assistant's house, (Olivia Wilde) that paralleled an episode of the Office virtually exactly.

Steve Buscemi is a fantastic actor but his portrayal of Anton fluxuated between annoying and effeminate, never seeming to quite find just the right balance.

Olivia Wilde was cast well as an aspiring magicianne' working backstage and then as the assistant.  She is also the love interest in the movie but that's neither here nor there since the movie failed to build on the relationship.  It wasn't convincing or necessary.

Alan Arkin was fantastic as Rance Holloway.  He made an appearance in a lesser-known movie titled "Magicians", years ago where he played the head of a magic club, also to great effect.  He really seems to know something about magic.  Or maybe just acting.  Either way, he nailed it.  Check out the movie Magicians for a quick performance of Steve Fearson's Floating Cigarette, the predecessor to Fearson's Master Levitation System.

David Coppefield appeared in a brief cameo.  Jay Moore also appeared and completely stunk up the screen.

Though the movie was enjoyable, it definitely could have been better.  The script would not be seen as clever or very creative from the point of view of the typical movie-goer.  But with the screenplay having been written by a magician, the magicians in the audience will likely get a bit more out of it.  Although it's a comedy that capitalizes on the truly ridiculous aspects of magic, the story is about the meaning of magic and Burt recapturing the wonder and the feeling of astonishment that got him into magic in the first place.  It could have done a better job of tying it all together, but magicians are going to feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they watch The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  And maybe a bit upset at the very beginning, when the Thumb Tip is blatantly exposed.  But you'll get over it.

All-in-all the movie is a lot of fun and a must-see for any magician or magic fan.

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